• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain


    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Denali Backpacking Guide

Wilderness - A Land Without Trails

Traveling and camping in this expansive terrain is special. You will find the backcountry of Denali is different from what you may encounter in other national parks. There are no trails, designated routes, or backcountry campsites here to guide your wilderness adventure. The goal of the Backcountry Information Center (BIC) is to provide visitors with the means of self-reliance and self-discovery. It encourages hikers to find what appeals to them rather than following specific routes.

Rangers working here will provide you with the knowledge to make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible - but, the path you choose in the backcountry will be your own. Take time to study the unit descriptions to find the perfect trip for you. The more effort your group invests in planning your trip, the larger the reward.

You must come prepared to travel cross-country through remote terrain in harsh weather, and rescue yourself in the event of problems. It is also your responsibility to help protect the special resources and opportunities that are present in Denali by carefully following the principles of Leave No Trace, so that your travels do not diminish the experience of those who follow you.

Backcountry Unit System

The unit-by-unit descriptions (below) in this backpacking guide will help you prepare in advance and in person for your Denali backpacking adventure.

The six million acres of Denali are divided into 87 separate backcountry units. Forty-one units have a limit on the number of individuals that can camp in each unit per night. During peak summer visitation, many of these units are heavily used, so please come to the Backcountry Desk with several alternative trip itineraries. Don't become discouraged if your first choice is not available. Remember, there are six million acres to choose from, and all units offer excellent wilderness trips.

Note the following information when planning a trek through Denali's backcountry:

  • Forty-one backcountry units have a specific quota
  • Unit availability determines where you may camp each night, and you must camp in the unit for which you have a permit
  • Maximum seven consecutive nights in a single unit
  • Maximum thirty nights in the backcountry during a summer season (April 15 - September 30)
  • "Double booking" a night in two different units or a unit and a campground is not permitted
  • Permits are issued only in person (no telephone or email reservations), and no more than one day in advance of your trip
  • All party members must be present to receive a permit
  • Permits are not required for day-hiking in the backcountry
  • There are some areas closed to human entry, usually due to the presence of nests/dens, or heightened bear activity (e.g., the presence of a killed animal)
Planning Your Denali Backpacking Adventure

Click on any unit in the map below to read a thorough description of that unit. Some of the very remote units are grouped together; and the heart of the Alaska Range link to our mountaineering webpages. The map includes tools for measuring distances, switching what base map you see, and even printing whatever you're currently viewing.

Text links to each unit's specific web page are also provided below the map.

Did You Know?